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Oak Alternatives is a term that is often used to describe products that are used in winemaking and spirits production, but the name itself does not accurately reflect what these products really are and quite frankly is misleading. The term oak alternatives suggests substituting oak barrels for something else, in actuality the products are made with the same oak that is used to create the barrels they are an alternative to.
Oak barrel aging is a centuries old tradition in winemaking and spirits production that has been perfected over time. Oak barrels impart flavor and complexity to wines, while also helping them mature and evolve properly. By using oak barrels in the aging process, winemakers can create a unique expression of their wine with subtle notes of vanilla, smoke, coffee, cocoa and more. However, despite its long-standing history, oak barrel aging presents several challenges. Oak barrels are expensive to purchase, maintain, availability, routine maintenance, and the life span of the barrel.
This is where Oak Alternatives come in, or as we refer to them, Oak Complements. By using Innerstave’s Oak Complements, winemakers, distillers, and brewers have an alternative to using oak barrels that still allows them to achieve similar results without all the extra costs associated with traditional barrel aging. These types of products come in a variety of formats such as chips, cubes, barrel inserts, and staves of various lengths.. They allow for greater control and experimentation giving producers the ability to create new and exciting products without the need for or hindrance of a barrel.
The name “Oak Barrel Alternatives” to me has always been a misnomer since these products are not a substitute for oak barrels but rather a replacement or a complement to them – which is why we call our product category “Oak Complements” instead. This name accurately conveys the relationship between our product category and the traditional way of barrel aging while also giving clarity on what kind of result you can expect when using our product range: namely complexity and flavor’s that are no longer just achievable through traditional methods alone!
I’ll admit that when I first started at Innerstave, I didn’t know what an oak alternative was either, but I learned quickly that we refer to them as Oak Complements around here. As time has gone on I have really come to understand why we refer to them that way, and it’s because all of our offerings are just that a complement to the product that they are being used to create and not just a misnamed afterthought.